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The Cannes marketplace is always a venue for projects that bring a sense of curiosity, risk, and, occasionally, befuddlement. But of some 4,000 films for sale in the Marché this year, none carries with it the tragic history of Rust, which producers are selling the international rights to this week in France, nearly 18 months after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the movie’s New Mexico set in 2021.
The choice to bring the Alec Baldwin-starring Western out into the marketplace followed conversations with Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, who became an executive producer on the project as part of a settlement of his wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions reached last October, according to producer Ryan Donnell Smith of Thomasville Pictures.
“That was led by Matthew Hutchins’ decision, what he felt was appropriate,” Smith said, speaking to THR Monday as he arrived in Cannes. “Is it the right thing to move forward? Our team felt, ‘How could we not finish this in honor of Halyna’s legacy?'”
Producers have removed the scene the crew was filming when the gun Baldwin was holding discharged, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.
Rust, which resumed filming at the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana last month, is now in its final week of production after producers raised additional funds to finish the film. Restarting production was, “surreal but extremely special,” Smith said. “The attitude was joyful, honoring and respectful.”
The movie still carries with it a great deal of legal baggage, which may give buyers pause. Last month the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office dropped involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin but said they could re-file them and that a follow-up investigation is still active. Charges of involuntary manslaughter against set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are proceeding. Assistant director David Halls signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Smith declined to answer questions about the criminal case still unfolding in New Mexico. Of the sales prospects he said, “This is an unprecedented film in regards to the circumstances. We’re trying to keep realistic expectations, but shepherd this in the best way we can.”
The production also still faces multiple civil suits, including one filed by Hutchins’ parents and sister, who were not part of the settlement deal Matthew Hutchins reached with the filmmakers. Their suit, which names Rust Movie Productions, El Dorado Pictures, Thomasville Pictures, Brittany House Pictures, Short Porch Pictures, Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, props master Sarah Zachry and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney, alleges battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and loss of consortium.
In April, Rust Movie Productions agreed to pay a $100,000 fine to the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, which determined that the company had violated workplace safety laws.
When production resumed in Montana last month, new safety protocols were put into place, Smith said. Safety officers Gary Jensen and Paul Jordan of Tenet Production Safety joined the film. Working weapons and ammunition were prohibited on set.
Hollywood’s major guilds and unions cleared their members to work on Rust, and a majority of the cast and crew returned, including Baldwin, who has now wrapped his scenes. In addition to Smith, all of the original producers, including Nathan Klingher and Ryan Winterstein of Short Porch Pictures, Anjul Nigam of Brittany House Pictures and Matthew Delpiano of Cavalry Media are back, as are stunt coordinator Allan Graf, costume designer Terese Davis, as well as members of the grip and electric, hair and makeup departments. Actor Josh Hopkins has replaced the character who was played by Jensen Ackles, who departed the project due to a scheduling conflict. Cinematographer Bianca Cline took Hutchins’ place behind the camera and plans to donate her salary to charity.
“We’re excited to be where we are with the Rust project,” Smith said. “It took a lot to get to principal photography. We’ve thought a lot about how it can best be put into the market to honor Halyna’s legacy.”
Goodfellas, the company formerly known as Wild Bunch International, is handling Rust’s international sales, a change from the film’s original seller, Highland Film Group, which launched it in the virtual Marché before production in 2000. “We felt for the international market it was appropriate to go with a European-based company,” says Smith.
Rust has not yet signed with a domestic sales agent.
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